As someone who is constantly surrounded by music, I often think of myself as a collection of songs. In fact, I even keep an ongoing lifelong playlist that tracks my life through music from the time I came to musical consciousness (first song, The GoGos “Our Lips are Sealed”) to the present moment. I pick one song a year that captures the feeling, the memory, and the experiences of that year. It’s my most High Fidelity-like project.
While I was pondering sharing some of this mix for this post, something happened to remind me that our identities (and our sounds) are just as often created by others. The songs on the list, chosen by my interior sensibility and understanding of myself, may not remind my best friend of me at all, for example, or they may surprise (even horrify) my mother. They put forth a sonic representation of me that competes with–and sometimes deliberately challenges– others’ understandings and representations.
In addition to musical soundtracks or vocal grains, sometimes other aural cues metonymically remind us of people we know and love. I still can recall the sound of my father’s footsteps trudging down the hall on rust colored carpet that has not graced my parents’ house since the late 1980s. My father has not been with us since 2011. But still the sound lives on.
My son, for example, does not think of me as a song at all, but rather as the sound of my keys jingling. Sometimes it is just that simple. At times approximating 5:30 by minutes and seconds, he begins to listen intently for the sound og my keys echoing down the day care hallway, letting him know that i have arrived to pick him up. For weeks, I wondered how he knew I was coming and how he was already at the door excitedly screaming “Mommy!” This past Monday, I heard him and his teacher discussing the keys–”I even recognize them now!” his teacher told him–and I looked down to see my keys, attached to a blue telephone cord, bouncing rhythmically with every hurried step, which they probably have every day at 5:30 for four years now.
So here it is, the sound of my keys, my self. Since it is 4:48, I’m off to get my boy.